May Belfort by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

May Belfort by Henri de Toulouse Lautrec

In early 1895, Lautrec led two new visitors to the Irish and American Bar: English dancer Mei Milton, close friend Jane Avril, and Irish singer May Belfort.

One day, Lautrec wandered to the cafeteria “Decadent”, on Fontaine Street, and saw May Belfort on stage. Dressed in fashion, in a long one-color dress with short sleeves trimmed with magnificent lace frills, with a cap tied under her chin, she portrayed a little girl. Holding the kitten in her arms, she sang a childish voice, syllabic, sang:

I have a little kitten, And I love him so much, so I love…

“I took it under my protection,” Lautrec told me.

This sickly girl with unnaturally pink eyelids had strange tastes. Her chaste face and angelic look were deceptive. She was drawn to everything dirty, disgusting. She loved toads, crabs, snakes, scorpions.

Her dubious charm attracted Lautrec. The artist was surprisingly helpful with this vicious pseudo-child, with this “orchid”, as he dubbed her. One day, in his workshop, Lautrec tried to kiss her. May Belfort fled in horror – the artist smelled of garlic.

She did not become his mistress, but agreed to pose for him. Lautrec wrote five of her portraits, made several lithographs and, at the beginning of the singer’s performances, performed for her a poster – a magnificent work in red tones, which “formed a bright and triumphant spot on the walls of Paris.”

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